December 2012 - Volume 32, Number 12


A balanced deer herd is an important part of any quality deer management program — and that means shooting more bucks.

We used to say at the deer camp not to shoot the does, now it’s don’t shoot the bucks. My how things have changed!

By now most everyone in the deer hunting community knows what the letters QDM stand for. Quality deer management is the type of deer management that has the objective of producing a quality deer herd with an older age class of bucks while providing hunters with quality deer hunting.

It is not trophy deer management, although it can produce trophy bucks.

In Louisiana, many clubs and private landowners have adopted QDM and are actively practicing the old motto of the Quality Deer Management Association: Let ’em Go and Let ’em Grow.

Big Lake gets all the trout-fishing glory in Southwest Louisiana, but look just up the Calcasieu River for a gold mine where fishing is almost too easy.

Capt. Nick Poe just knew back in June he would be having one of the most hellacious fall and winter fishing seasons he had ever experienced on the Calcasieu estuary.

“We got a big rain in June,” the Big Lake Guide Service (337-598-3268) captain recalled. “I mean, it rained here almost every day, and I figured it would flush anything and everything, especially up north around Prien Lake and Lake Charles.”

Poe normally wouldn’t be all that concerned about fishing that far north during the winter because all the water is just so much deeper than Calcasieu Lake.

However, he discovered this past fall that there are a lot of fish up there.

Learn why this accomplished St. Bernard Parish guide uses a cork with almost religious fervor to put trout in the boat day after day.

Scrunch, Scrunch, Schrunch! The heavy frost on the vehicle’s windshield wasn’t yielding easily to my efforts.

“Man, it’s cold. What am I doing going trout fishing?” I asked myself. The day before, young-gun guide Kerry Audibert Jr. told me that he needed fish (read speckled trout) for his freezer.

Deer hunting is quickly becoming as much about management as about shooting. Read on as Baton Rouge’s Roland Dugas describes his family’s approach to growing bucks.

Mark Huvall had seen a huge deer several times over the past few years, and now the buck was walking right into his lap.

“He walked up to within 6 yards of my blind,” Huvall said. “I released my arrow and watched him take off. I noticed that he staggered a couple of times as he ran so I felt I’d made a good shot.”

That the deer was a monster wasn’t in question, but what wasn’t clear until he recovered the animal was that it would stretch the tape to 200 inches.

Catahoula Lake is hallowed ground in the duck-hunting world, and no one knew that better than the late Chuck Buckley. Take a walk through those grounds in his shadow.

It was a hypnotizingly peaceful afternoon. I shuffled along the banks of Little River, head down, searching intently for a pottery shard, an arrowhead — anything that the area’s first inhabitants might have left behind.

The sun’s rays felt good on my back, but the air still had a cold nip to it from a front that had passed the day before.

The sound of dogs barking in the distance echoed through the bare trees. The occasional cawing of crows seemed especially sharp in the dry air.

Otherwise, there was silence.

I felt rather than heard something behind me on the riverbank. I turned but saw nothing. It happened again. The third time, I barely turned my head and peeked out of one corner of my eye.

Cold weather doesn’t stop the bite in the Cocodrie area. Follow this guide’s advice to load the boat all month.

So I asked him, “What’s the best speckled trout spot on the central coast in December?”

Before he answered, he fixed his lazer-like eyes on me with a look on his face that said, “Everyone knows the answer to that.”

He exhaled slightly and said “Lake Mechant! Lake De Mechant! Lake Mechant!”

“When are we going?” I responded.

I was talking to Bryce Michel, who amongst other things is the owner of Topwater Charters and Lodge in Chauvin. The business employs five charter boats, and the lodge is really two lodges, side-by-side, that can sleep 24 people.

These hunters have learned that you can sit in stationary blinds and hope ducks come to you — or you can move around and find out where the birds really want to be.

I always wondered while fishing during the winter if all those ducks I kept jumping in the river lakes just off the Ouachita River between Monroe and West Monroe would eventually return to that same spot.

I imagined myself sneaking in there in my white-and-red metal-flake bass boat clad in camouflage netting to see if I could pop off a couple shots on those returning ducks.

Little did I know it at the time, but that’s exactly how some people hunt the Ouachita River and its tributaries. Simply put, they ride around until they jump some ducks, and then they return the next morning.

This late in the season, pieny woods deer often ignore food plots — at least during the daytime. But make a subtle change, and the results could be deer on the ground.

Da Saints had just stomped Da Falcons in Da Dome. Da Tigers were scheduled to stomp Bama at the championship the following week. And a perfectly-timed (for hunting) holiday cold-front was barreling through.

So spirits were soaring high at Da Camp as we converged the day after Christmas, with Da owners Eddie and Artie arriving elegantly late, as usual.

Exactly which one of Dem owned and ran the deer-club had never been precisely nailed down. Artie’s uncle more or less “founded” Da Lease back around the time “Bum” Phillips resigned as Saint’s coach in a huff.

Teal season might not have been extraordinary in St. Bernard Parish, but this guide said he thinks the regular duck season should be bang up. Here’s why.

This past teal season didn’t exactly knock Capt. Chris Pike’s socks off. The Delacroix charter captain and duck-hunting guide hunted every day, and although he had some decent hunts, most days ended with a few empty spots on his duck strap.

The teal season might not have been all he expected, but if a late-October ride through the marsh was any indication, the big-duck season looks like it’s going to be much better.

“There were birds all over,” he said about two or three days after a late October cold front that dropped lows well below the seasonal average. “I guess that front pushed a lot of birds down.”

This 54-year-old bowhunter’s lifetime of chasing Tensas National Wildlife Refuge bucks led to a state-record archery buck last season. And his approach isn’t very complicated.

It was Jan. 7 of this year and Alton “Tadpole” McLeod was hunting an area of Tensas National Wildlife Refuge he had not previously hunted. He found a deer trail and a suitable tree for his climbing stand overlooking the trail and got set up.

Around 4 p.m. buzzards (of all things) began to congregate at a roost tree nearby.

“They were making a lot of noise, landing, flapping wings and breaking branches,” McLeod said. “There must have been 30 or 40 of them.”

Tadpole was discouraged and did not expect any deer movement due to all the noise. He considered moving, but since it was so late in the day he decided to sit it out till dark.

Around 5 p.m. he heard something moving in the palmettos, coming from the direction of the buzzard roost. He suspected either a deer or bear.

OK, so the water around Port Fourchon might not freeze, but the redfish are thick and waiting for you to paddle right up to them.

The Port of Fourchon is not the frozen tundra that Green Bay Packer fans so fondly depict their hometown as being. Nor do the surrounding waters of the port freeze, as some of those seen on the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch.”

But, that doesn’t mean this region doesn’t get downright cold, which just happens to impact the way anglers fish in the winter there.

When Kajun Custom Kayak’s Corey Coghlan invited me to do a little redfishing with him in one of the company’s kayaks at the Port of Fourchon, the idea of “freezing for fish in Fourchon” (note: something hard to say three times as fast as you can), was something I was willing to try.

Eight years ago state managers began an experiment designed to grow quality bucks on Thistlethwaite WMA. Those efforts seem to be paying off in spades.

Gerald Ducote of Melville had reason to be optimistic on Dec. 26.

He, his father Kirt Rodriguez and his brother-in-law Jason Bergeron had left the woods that evening after seeing 1 ½- year-old bucks and spikes chasing does within the interior of Thistlethwaite Wildlife Management Area.

“We had been hunting active deer sign on the edges of a 2-year-old cutover,” the 27-year-old crane operator said. “There were rubs and scrapes just all over the area.”

The next grey, cold morning found Ducote jacking up a tree in his Summit climber, facing the cutover. The wind was at his face, and he was ready to see deer.

The effectiveness of deer attractant scents is hotly debated, but these hunters think they are important — at times.

As the story goes, Jake Spangler’s grandfather owned a meat market back during the depression years of the last century. Each Saturday the butcher would take an old man he knew a piece of meat just to help him out.

As time went on, the old man passed away. The kindness that Spangler’s grandfather showed didn’t go unnoticed, when he was willed property near Black Crook Bayou in St. Mary Parish that his family shares and hunts today.

You could drive right through Myrtle Grove and never realize you’re passing up some top-notch redfishing grounds. This guide knows better.

Maybe you’ve thought of Myrtle Grove as a mere blip in the road, a tiny hamlet somewhere between Ironton and West Pointe a la Hache, a place you whiz by on your way to more notable destinations, such as Buras, Empire and Venice.

But it’s time to think again.

Certainly, many old timers remember Myrtle Grove as an outstanding wintertime bank-fishing destination, where you could pay a small fee and pull your car or truck up near the edge of Wilkerson Canal and fish for trout and redfish.

It was well known for producing excellent catches of specks and reds in the most inclement weather. It actually seemed that the colder and more bitter the winter weather was, the better your chances of catching fish.

Collin Merritt killed this huge buck after trying 17 times to intercept it.